Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE) are one of the powerful special education rights that parents have. Each time the district conducts an evaluation, you only get one IEE at the district’s expense. Therefore, it is very important to select the right evaluator/assessor. Sometimes a District will provide a list of possible evaluators. You don’t have to select one of those evaluators and often you do not want to due to bias of the evaluators on the district list.

If you choose a biased evaluator on the district list, you may end up with an IEE that looks very similar to the district’s assessment and then you’ll be back to square one and waisted your IEE opportunity until the district conducts another assessment.

A good IEE evaluator will compare past district assessments and recommendations to the IEE test scores and recommendations/conclusions. Typically, the IEE will uncover and legally document new information that may contradict the district’s findings. IEEs can be used as evidence in DP to show the district’s failure to provide FAPE and appropriate IEP development. The IEE evaluator should be one that is not afraid to question the district and identify their mistakes and violations. Make sure the independent evaluator will do collateral interviews with other professionals and assessors.

Here are some important factors when selecting an IEE evaluator:

Make sure the independent evaluator and you share the same philosophy and goals for your child.

Make sure the evaluator is willing to do thorough student observations. For students with social and behavioral challenges, the IEE assessor should observe in unstructured times as well as the classroom.

Make sure the independent evaluator has all district records for your child. Otherwise, how will they include an accurate history review, do a comparison of past testing, and identify inaccurate or incomplete previous district assessments?

Make sure the evaluator is willing to question and/or challenge other assessors’ testing and conclusions. They should include a comparison of the district test scores to that of the IEE findings. This can reveal disparities, inaccurate assessment findings, and downright falsification of information.

Make sure the evaluator is willing to write specific recommendations, i.e., goals, accommodations, and service duration and frequency (if applicable), and recommend additional assessment in other areas of need when warranted.

Finally, you want to look up and read any hearing decisions that the assessor previously testified at the OAH Website.

Good IEEs can be very valuable in advocating for the needs of your child. It is important to select the right evaluator since you only get one free. Hopefully, this post will help you select the right one for your child’s IEE.

Why would you need an IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation)?

If you are dissatisfied with your child’s education assessment or the district is denying your child eligibility or a necessary service based on the recommendations of a poorly done assessment that was inaccurate or incomplete, it is your right to request an IEE.

Did the District fail to evaluate your child in all areas of need according to their disability?

Either at an IEP meeting or in writing (or both) you should specifically request an IEE. It’s a good idea to explain why you disagree with the District’s assessment, however, parents are not required to state why they disagree in order to request an IEE.

Fund or File

When the District receives your request for an IEE, the District has only two options: “Fund or File.” The district must either pay for the IEE (Fund) or file for Due Process (File), claiming that the District’s assessment is “appropriate.” If the District decides to file for Due Process, and the hearing officer determines that the district’s evaluation is appropriate, you have a right to the independent evaluation, but not at public expense (34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.502; Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56329(b)).

However, the majority of district assessments are inaccurate and incomplete so the chances of a hearing officer finding the district’s assessment appropriate are slim. Furthermore, districts bank on the fact that parents get scared when they file and expect you to cancel your request for an IEE. As such, they’ve won. Call their bluff. Most likely, you will win. And if you don’t, you’ve sent a message that you aren’t afraid to advocate for your child.

The district may ask you to identify specific areas of disagreement with its evaluation, but this cannot be used to delay the district’s response to your request (34 C.F.R. 502(b); Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56329(b) & (c)).

Without Unnecessary Delay

Under federal regulations, the district must respond to your request for an IEE “without unnecessary delay” (34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.502(b)(2)). “Necessary Delay” is a question of fact under the circumstances. In one California case, “unnecessary delay” has been found to be more than ninety days have elapsed after the request and the district did not respond at all. (Pajaro Valley Unified Sch. Dist. v. J.S., 47 IDELR 12, 50 (N.D. Cal. 2006). On the other hand, the courts have found that there was no unnecessary delay when the parties are negotiating regarding the assessor for the IEE and some time has elapsed. Nevertheless, don’t allow them to delay the IEE.

Who conducts the IEE

Regardless of whether the district agrees to provide you with an IEE or opts to file for Due Process, the district needs to provide you with “information about where an independent educational evaluation may be obtained, and the agency criteria applicable for independent educational evaluations.”

This information should include a list of qualified assessors in your area, as well as pricing guidelines and other standards the district has adopted. As I previously mentioned, you are not obligated to use the assessors listed by the district. However, you should use the district’s pricing guidelines and other standards.

Observations by Independent Evaluator

If the district conducted the contested assessment using observation, then the Independent Evaluation can too. This includes the current educational placement and setting and in any new placement and setting proposed by the district. Do not let the district restrict observation of your child. The observations are a vital component to reveal what’s really going on in the classroom and during the school day that parents would have never learned had they not asked for an IEE.

The IEE is the key to getting what your child needs and is the evidence I use in IEP meetings to win the goals, supports, services, and placement parents are seeking for their child. Without a strong IEE, you’ll be spinning your wheels with long delays in having your child’s IEP written to meet their needs.

Here’s to your advocacy success!

Valerie Aprahamian

If you haven’t joined our Private Special Education Parent Empowerment Facebook Group yet, you should check it out here.

Here’s what parents are saying about the group:

“Today is a pretty big win for my daughter and I, two years into the process, the district has finally agreed on a 1:1. Thank you, Valerie, and everyone else on this page for your wealth of knowledge and support! I know it’s not over, but it’s progress!”  -Kris Kar


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